While spending time with a friend recently, our conversation turned towards the subject of optimism. He shared with me briefly the power of optimism and positive thinking during the course of his life. He really stressed that we have to avoid getting ‘stuck in the muck,’ those attitudes which render us downtrodden, negative, and slow to accomplish duties.
As I continue to reflect on The Lord’s Prayer in my own life, I tend to focus on the line, Thy will be done. When I ask that God’s will be done in my life, what am I really asking; and am I really willing to accept his will and negate my own? When his will is in the process of being accomplished in my life, when his will for my life is very challenging, do I choose joy in knowing that his will, not my own is being accomplished? Do I respond with generosity and hope and optimism? I continue to be convicted that I am to cling to hope and to be optimistic, especially in the difficult times. I often try to reflect on those Christians who have lived exemplary lives. The saints of the Church stand out as witnesses to joy, a community of optimists, especially in their trials and challenges.
We can also reflect on the first scripture of our Lenten readings for the season from the book of Joel; ‘Turn to the Lord with your whole heart’ (JL 2:12). God’s will seeks our entirety. Let us not be like Ananias or Sapphira in Acts, who go out and sell earthly possession to build the Kingdom, only to hold back a portion for themselves (Acts 5: 1-11). Humanity is eager for happiness, and advice abounds in the modern world on how to achieve happiness. Our wholeness of being, of turning the whole of our will to our King is the answer to the quest for happiness. Theresa of Avila warns her nuns in ‘The Way of Perfection.’ She asks them to guard against holding back the will from our Savior; “For if you give Him your will in any other way [than fully], you are just showing Him a jewel, making as if to give it to Him and begging Him to take it, and then, when He puts out His hand to do so, taking it back and holding on to it tightly.’
A hope-filled optimistic attitude is a lofty goal, so let us not fall into the foolishness of believing we have the strength to accomplish the Lord’s will with joy without daily help in the form of ‘bread.’ Some of my greatest victories have come at the precise moment that after great personal struggle, I give up, throw my hands in the air, and abandon it all to God. I receive the bread of Christ in a spiritual communion, in prayer, and I receive comfort knowing that I cannot achieve, but he can. We need not burden God by worrying about petty wants and needs he has continually assured us he will meet, ‘but seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness and all these things will be given you besides’ (Matthew 6: 33). We cannot be closer to the Kingdom in this lifetime than when we physically commune with Jesus in the Eucharist, and our spiritual communion in prayer and contemplation. Jesus really does have it under control, and we become aware of this reality more and more, as we rely on ‘bread’ and give our will to the Lord and enter into his rest.
God willing, we are all in the center of God’s will this lent. What a wonderful season where we can proclaim that HELP IS ON THE WAY! Jesus’ sacrifice feeds us with his body and blood! May his kingdom come through a generous giving of our will to Jesus.
Joel Samaha is a husband and father of five living in Augusta, Georgia. He teaches and coaches at a local high school and is a member of the Alleluia Community.
Photo credit: http://t1.gstatic.com/imagesq=tbn:ANd9GcROZoHosFFoSMuo5YLvxim7Esel05f6iZfdSXQP0Agj8UE2unpW:zimbabwewilddogs.wildlifedirect.org/files/2008/12/baby-warthog-stuck-in-mud-10-12-08.JPG